Bewildering Stories

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The Bridge

part 4, installment 3

by euhal allen

“The Bridge” began in issue 99.
Installment 2 appeared in issue 107.

Denzo Kurihara looked back at the pursuing boats and, knowing the end was nearing, began thinking of what he was about to face, when the voice came to him. It was the same voice he had heard those many years ago; the voice that told him that Seiji wanted to explain to him about his decision to stay with the Bridge.

“They will not catch you, Denzo. You will see your home again, and sooner than you know. Go into your cabin and you will find two small bags on your table. One of them is filled with Seiji’s fingernail clippings.

“He had me save them, just in case. He knew, especially near the last, that there was a chance I would have to give them to his family. He knew you would come. I have protected them all these years. The other bag has something I will talk to you about later. Right now I have a small job to do.”

Captain Kurihara felt the wind rising sharply and saw the sails stretch almost to the breaking point. The boat seemed to have been picked up and shot, somehow, towards the horizon. The Captain, looking back, saw those pursuing boats shrinking visibly even as he watched. Strangely, though, it was very calm on the boat itself.

Denzo turned and went down into his cabin. There on his table were the two bags. One was very small and held very little. The other was somewhat larger, and it was sealed.

Denzo picked up the small bag and saw a small picture of Seiji on it. There below the picture were the words, “For my father, Denzo Kurihara, who I know will come.” It was signed Seiji.

Tears in his eyes, Denzo opened the little bag and saw the fingernail clippings. He reached into his pocked and pulled out the bag of grass clippings from Seiji’s grave and mixed them with the clippings, and closed the bag again. Putting the bag against his heart, he let the tears that he had held back all these years flow forth.

* * *

On the pursuing boats there was only shock and unbelief. That gust of wind that came up and carried the Japanese boat away should not have happened. Not to them. Now they had to go back empty-handed. It was the way of things, they thought, just when you might get something to put you ahead, something came along and ruined it.

Well, at least they told one another, there wouldn’t be any more of those Japanese boats coming in and taking their fish.

* * *

President Hobart was livid. Somehow, whenever that particular part of the Oregon coast came up the news was always bad. This time they had a chance to catch some real, provable foreigners sneaking into the country. This time they had a chance to put before the public actual examples of why things needed to be changed, and they had gotten away.

It always happened there. He told Lockly that this was the hot spot of the Bridge’s comeback. He had made it clear repeatedly. But, they all just laughed behind his back. They were a bunch of fools.

* * *

The New York Times was, as it was every morning, on the Vice President’s desk.

On the front page was the headline, Scientist Kills Self, and under it was a picture of Richard Fedderson with a story of how the eminent biologist, world renowned as an expert on South American amphibious life, especially Poison Arrow frogs, had been found dead in his home. The cause of death was not yet known, but there was a syringe in his hand and the substance was being analyzed.

The Vice President, entering his office with his secretary, saw the picture of Dr. Fedderson and, not reading the headline, told his secretary that Richard was probably being given yet another award from some new frog he had discovered. “I can’t imagine what he sees in those things,” he said.

His secretary, reading the headline, said in a shocked voice, “He committed suicide, sir.”

Vice President Lockly, looking suddenly ill, asked, “What did you say, Clarice?”

“Sir, the paper says Dr. Fedderson committed suicide,” she answered.

The Vice President grabbed at the paper and sat down in his chair. “I can’t believe this. I just talked with Richard the other day. He was a little depressed, but suicide? I told him to go see a doctor and he said he would. I even offered to get him an appointment with Dr. Renson if he wanted. He told me that he would go to his own doctor.

“He was a good man, Clarice; and a good friend. I shall miss him very much. Call his wife Georgiana and tell her that as soon as I clear up this morning’s business, I will come over. Find out if she needs anything.”

“Yes sir,” she said, as she left the room.

The Vice President picked up the paper again and read the story carefully. Then, with a little smile on his face, got busy on his morning’s work.

* * *

The very large and obviously expensive motor home entered the village quietly and parked in a lot near the docks. The driver, Ernest Bellingham and his wife, Sheila, looked out at the bay. “It is very beautiful,” she said, “just like the song.”

“It will be a different life, Sheila, one we are not used to,” he replied. “Are you sure you want to do this? Our money will not gain us favors here. Not if we go through with this.”

“I know, Ern, I know. But when she sings my heart feels peace and hears truth. Our money has never given that. I know it will be hard, but when I think of the possible future our children may have I know that I have to do this. We can get along without the money, but we can’t get along without hope.”

There was a knock on their door and Ernest got up to answer it. Outside was a rather big man who had an even bigger smile.

“I’m Piotr. May I come in?” he asked.

“Of course. The Dream Singer told us a man named Piotr would come and help us. You are very welcome.”

Piotr, finding a chair big enough, sat with obvious pleasure and said, “I suppose you have some questions?”

Sheila spoke first. “We are here to live, to give our children a better future. We have all the papers needed to give our assets to the Dream Singer; we know that she will use it well.”

Piotr, looking a little shocked, said, “She does not want your assets. She wants your efforts. She mentioned that there are a couple of businesses in town that you could look at if you wanted to.”

Now it was Ernest’s time to be shocked, “The Dream Singer does not want our assets? There are businesses for sale that we can look at. Why?”

Piotr answered, “There is a rift in the community. Most of us listen to the songs, but there are some who do not. There are some who don’t like the changes that are coming. They are the ones who want to leave the village. They are the ones who have businesses for sale.

“But it is still a village. It needs businesses to keep people working, to give them a way to make a living. You, with your business background and you experience in management can, through your hard work, provide some of those jobs.

“We have many more people coming here. Unless we have things for them to do, ways they can make a living, the future we strive for, the future the songs tell about, cannot happen.”

“Then,” said Ernest Bellingham, “let’s go look at those businesses.”

* * *

The village matrons knew that Gloria von Seltzen was not a happy woman. Most of the people in the village were listening to, in her words, “some silly songs about some silly utopia” and the rest; most of her friends were trying to leave the village. Soon, she felt, she would be the only one left that had the sense to keep her feet on the ground.

She wanted to go also, and talked about it, but she did not want to leave the ranch to others. She had spent too much time, effort and money making her house the showplace it was to want to start somewhere else. Besides, she had said, no one but she really saw the beauty of her rose garden.

Still, there was the possibility of a vacation away from here. She mentioned leaving Tommy Tinker in charge so she and Dr. von Seltzen could go on a cruise somewhere. That would show the villagers. Without her, the village would loose its social guidance, its sense of propriety.

Perhaps, a cruise was not enough, she had mentioned. Maybe a year away on a trip through Europe and Africa would be better. After a year away the villagers would beg her to come back. Then they would know her worth. Then things would be as they used to be. Yes, that was the answer. Now she said, she only had to find a way to convince her husband that such a trip was necessary.

* * *

Captain Kurihara had fallen asleep over his table, holding the bag of grass and nail clippings. His crew, knowing his grief and his need for solitude stayed topside and let him sleep.

“Denzo,” that familiar voice called, “Denzo, it is time to talk.”

Captain Kurihara struggled to wake up; struggled to overcome the emotions that had carried him to escape in sleep. “Yes, Bridge-san, it is time to talk,” he finally said.

“The other bag on the table contains more crystal keys. They need to be put into every tenth pillar, every command pillar, on your way home. It is time to try again to help your people.

“Each time you put a key into a pillar, you will be opening a new node in the network, restoring power to a new command unit. After the power has been restored to a pillar, it will enhance your speed to the next unit to be awakened. There are keys for every tenth pillar from here to your home village.

“It is much to ask of you, for if the authorities among your planet’s people find that you have done this, it will go badly for you. Yet it is what Seiji would have wanted you to do.”

Captain Kurihara, with a new bitterness in his heart, asked, “How do you know what Seiji would want? I thank you for that which you saved of him. But I can not but believe that had he not gone off with you I would still have a son, not just nail clippings.”

“You speak true, Denzo. His choice in traveling on my ways did lead to his death. I cannot deny that, but I can show you how he felt.”

The cabin darkened and in the center of the little room a picture formed. Denzo saw his son, his Seiji, in his travels. He saw him lying in the summer grass in Sweden; walking the winter snows in Siberia; swimming in the ocean near the Great Barrier Reef; meeting people everywhere. Always he was smiling. Always his eyes sparkled with the joy of life.

Then Denzo saw the start of the bad times. He saw the shootings of those who would use the Bridge, who would travel as his son did. And he saw the last conversation his son had with the Bridge. He saw how the Bridge had warned his son that it was a bad place, and to leave its protection. And he heard his son answer that he did not believe anyone really wanted to harm him.

Denzo began to understand what his son had done and seen. He began to see that his son had known what could happen but believed it would not.

While Denzo was watching, the screen changed and a picture of a robed woman appeared. And she sang. She sang a song about Seiji and his smile. About Seiji and his life and adventures. And she sang about his last moments and his death. And, because of the words; because of her haunting voice, Denzo finally understood.

* * *

Merle Johnson had always thought of fishing as a lying on the bank and relaxing sort of thing. He was wrong. Fishing, this kind of fishing, was hard, backbreaking work. At least it was when the fish were running. Other times, they told him it wasn’t so bad. He wished it were other times. Out here in the fishing grounds around the pillars it seemed that the fish were always running. And so was he.

Still, they had found a nice house and Hannah and the kids were doing well and were safe. They had food on the table and were making good friends in the village. It was as the Dream Singer had sung, “Life in peace, life in plenty, the good things of the earth and sea, bring them in, bring them in.”

She had been right, it was different here, it was better here.

* * *

President Hobart, with his fourth water glass half full of bourbon at hand, sat at his desk planning his next move. The convention and the election had gone as he had wanted them to go. Now he had another four years to find those Bridge people. Now he could concentrate on that village on the Oregon coast that kept popping up in the reports he got from his field operatives.

There were strange rumors coming out of that place; rumors of songs sung there that weren’t sung anywhere else. At least they weren’t until lately. Now they were appearing in some of the other places that also had a habit of coming up in those same reports.

Then, in that special village, many of the old-timers were moving out and new people were moving in. People who had names that had been seen in the reports of those other villages. It was almost like some convention or gathering was coming up, except these new ones found houses and jobs rather quickly. Lockly called it coincidence, but the President knew that it was not, it couldn’t be. So he was finalizing plans to infiltrate the village with his people to get to the bottom of what was going on.

Just then the clock rang seven p.m., and his secretary came and reminded him to take his evening blood pressure pill. “It’s time, Sir,” she said as cheerfully as ever.

Looking grumpy and cursing a little about the need to be always taking pills, the President opened the drawer where he kept the pills and grabbed the bottle of blood pressure medicine, took off the cap and shook out a pill into his hand and looked at the disgusting thing. It looked a little off color this evening, but then, after four bourbons, most things changed a little in the way they looked.

He popped the pill into his mouth and, after pouring two more fingers of bourbon into his glass, washed it down.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2004 by euhal allen

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